Top Tight Ends in NFL Draft: Cole Kmet

Bill Huber

Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet makes his pitch to be the No. 1-ranked tight end.

Cole Kmet might be the first tight end to be selected in this month’s NFL Draft.

He could have been a fifth-round draft choice in 2017 – by baseball’s Chicago White Sox. With that would have come a six-figures contract. Instead, Kmet stayed at Notre Dame as a two-sport player. He even got to play with his younger brother, Casey, a catcher and first baseman.

Kmet pitched on Notre Dame’s baseball team for two seasons. As a freshman in 2018, he led the Fighting Irish with eight saves. As a sophomore in 2019, he had 27 strikeouts vs. three walks in 18.2 innings before being shut down with a sore elbow. That would be it for baseball. At that point, Kmet turned his full attention to what would be his final season of football.

“It was tough,” Kmet said at the Scouting Combine. “That was one thing, playing with my brother in baseball was a thing I was looking at, but also it was leaving all my best friends at Notre Dame. They are all still their right now. Winning a national championship was something I wanted to do while I was there. It was definitely a tough decision to come out but ultimately I made that decision and I’m happy for it. … At the end of the day, football is where my heart was and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Kmet is the latest in a long line of Notre Dame tight ends headed to the NFL. He’s something of a one-year wonder with a junior season of 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns. He started his season off with a bang with nine catches for 108 yards and one touchdown vs. Georgia – an incredible feat after he returned sooner than expected from a broken collarbone – and he followed that with a four-game touchdown streak.

Kmet’s dad, Frank Kmet, was a fourth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1992. An uncle, Jeff Zgonina, played on the defensive line for 17 NFL seasons.

What we like

At 6-foot-5 3/4 and 262 pounds with massive 10.5-inch hands, he’s a big target with ample athleticism (4.70 in the 40; 37-inch vertical). According to Sports Info Solutions, he caught 88 percent of catchable passes – the fourth-best rate among our top 17 tight ends. According to Pro Football Focus, he caught 4-of-10 deep passes.

What we don’t like

The size disappoints in two ways. First, he’s only a so-so blocker. Second, he should overwhelm his opponents in contested-catch situations but, instead, caught only 30.0 percent of the passes, according to PFF. His 10.75 catches per missed tackle is one of the worst rates in the class, so his YAC is more than dragging tacklers than escaping them.

“I think it’s my ability to stretch the field, get open and win one-on-one matchups,” he said of the strength of his game. “What I really have to work on is my blocking technique, my hands, all that type of stuff. That’s something I’m still trying to improve on today.”

Bill Huber’s Tight End Profiles

No. 1: Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet

No. 2: Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant

No. 3: Dayton’s Adam Trautman

No. 4: Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins

No. 5: Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam

Nos. 6-14: The Best of the Rest

SI.com: Which School is Tight End U.?

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